Enforcing limits without force

January 18, 2012

Been reading a few parenting blogs and found some useful articles. I always read and forget about them so decide to leave a note in this blog as reminder to self.


Sure, force, or the threat of force, works temporarily. Timeouts scare young children into complying because they’re a form of ritual, temporary abandonment. But they don’t teach kids to regulate the emotions that drove them to behave badly, so the misbehavior continues. Eventually, kids rebel and you have to escalate your force. You can drag your flailing child, but sooner or later you won’t be able to do that, and in the meantime he’s not learning to manage himself.

What’s more, the more often you resort to force, the less your child will WANT to cooperate. I hear frequently from parents of six year olds who have become defiant, now that they can’t be dragged to timeout. The six year olds who were never punished with timeouts (or other punishment) but were instead taught loving family expectations and emotional regulation are much better behaved and cooperative. So force doesn’t actually get kids to behave any better. In fact, research shows that punishment makes kids misbehave more.


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